United Dreamliner Almost Lands on EasyJet A320 due to ATC mistake

The EasyJet Airbus A320 captain intervened to urge a United Airlines Boeing 787-10 for a go-around flight after the Boeing 787 had shifted its approach to the wrong runway 09R at the Paris Charles de Gaule. 

The incident happened a year ago, on 20th July 2021, the United’s Boeing almost landed on the EasyJet A320 at the Paris airport due to an error made by an air traffic controller. The United’s jet approached the runway when an EasyJet Airbus was waiting to take off, according to the French Civil Aviation Safety report, which was released yesterday, on 19th July 2021. 

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The United’s Boeing was carrying out its flight UA57 from Newark airport to Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport.

French Civil Aviation Safety Report

The investigation of the incident affirmed that the controller had granted the EasyJet plane access to prepare for take-off on the runway; however, at the same time, due to technical issues, the United plane was also permitted to land on the runway. The 09L runway was set for landing and the 09R runway for take-offs on the day of the incident. The technical error might have connected with the previously received flight of the French airport; just before the Delta UA57 arrived to land, another French Boeing 787 in service with France Air had demanded to land on the runway 09R due to technical issues, the take-off runway which was the longest among the two.

Source: .theguardian.com

Also, two planes had landed on runway 09L and were maintaining their position on the ramp before crossing runway 09R due to the landing of France Air’s aircraft on the 09R runway facing technical difficulties. Both of the planes were held at the point D5 with the Airbus A320 from EasyJet, which was cleared to take off from the runway 09R.

The report explains, on the first contact with the flight crew of the United Airline’s Boeing 787 on an ILS approach on runway 09L, the air controlled made a wrong slip and gave the crew landing permission on Runway 09R instead of 09L.

Understand cleared to land 09 Right, sidestep for 9 Right United 57,” the flight crew received readback from the air controller; the United’s flight crew also tried to confirm the sidestep maneuver in the clearance they received. However, the flight crew didn’t get any response to the query from the controller. At the same time, the air controller had cleared the EasyJet Airbus crew to line up for their scheduled take-off. Meanwhile, the UA57 followed the received instruction and prepared its sidestep maneuver to land on the 09R runway.

According to the report, the report analyzed that the use of the non-standard expression was partially to blame for the miscommunication, “understandBy notVerification” would have received more attention from the controller. Luckily, the EasyJet pilot noticed the potential collision who queried it with the air traffic control immediately; the United’s pilot was urgently ordered to make an immediate go-around. By the time Delta’s crew had already located the EasyJet Airbus on the runway, they were cleared to land; the UA57 on the way to land aborted its approach and flew over the EasyJet’s Airbus. The B787-10 took the initiative to go around from about 367 ft ground elevation to avoid the collision. 

Later, the B787 landed safely after 20 minutes of taking a round trip, and the EasyJet was permitted to take off 5 minutes after the arrival of the Delta airplane. The French BEA rated this incident a very serious matter and opened the investigation of the flight mishap.

The report also further stated that the lack of clear vision from the position of the controller contributed to the mistake. The screen from the Local Northwest Control position could not be turned on during the time, which resulted in controlled suing the Loca Northwest position form where he had no vision of the thresholds runways 09. The air traffic controllers who have been negatively affected by the reduced flights due to travel restrictions after the virus outbreak were also cited in the report. The air controllers at the Paris Charles de Gaule were lacking the practice of dealing with the post-pandemic flights. 

Although the air controller was mostly blamed for the cause of the incident, the various factors and circumstances contributing to the incident cannot be ignored. 

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